By Chesley Oxendine
Old friends clashed on the field again Saturday night during Fort Gibson High School’s first-ever alumni soccer games.
Divided into Red and White teams, players from as far back as 1989 — including Mayor Steven Hill — returned to the field in separate men and women’s bouts.
Approximately 100 people comprised a small but energetic crowd, who rattled the stands with every attempted shot.
While admission was free, donations were taken at the gate for FGHS’ soccer booster club.
Assistant Soccer Coach Clyde Cothern provided running commentary from the press box.
The women played first, and the Red team earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the White team.
After sneaking in an early goal, Red stonewalled White’s constant offensive and consistently blasted the ball back out of its goal zone.
Despite the heated exchanges, the atmosphere remained good-natured. Girls helped each other up after falling, and chatted during breaks.
For 2010 graduate and Red squad member Bailey Brown, hitting the field again was “exciting.”
“It was great to play with fellow Fort Gibson people again,” Brown said. “Some of the girls are my former teammates, so I know how they play.”
She said she enjoyed participating with a mix of generations.
“It was great just being a part of this,” Brown said.
Lindsay Keeling, a 2000 graduate who now teaches math at FGHS, said it was “interesting” playing against younger people.
“I just wanted to show them old people can still play soccer,” she said.
For White squad player Jessica Bell, who graduated in 1996, Saturday night’s event demonstrated the sense of community among Fort Gibson’s soccer fans.
“We still talk to each other, even years later,” she said.
Bell would appreciate more even teams in the future, however, she said.
“The Red team was younger over all. There were even 2011 alumni out there,” Bell said. “That’s not fair.”
The men’s game proved a more pitched battle, with Red taking an early lead in the first half. White barreled through the defense in the second half, however, and took the game 5-4.
Waylon Lewis, who graduated in 1997, said the game was a “blast.”
“Just getting out there with the guys again, and playing hard but having fun,” Lewis said, “I had a great time.”
2002 alumnus Ryan Fontanue said he particularly appreciated reuniting with old friends.
“It was fun to reconnect and get out there and play,” he said. “I hope we get to do it again.”
Cothern said annual alumni games were in planning.
For event attendee Joe Huerta from Muskogee, annual might not be enough.
“They ought to do one of these every six weeks, honestly,” he said. “This was pretty interesting.”
Huerta said he expected more injuries during the men’s game, which was completed without incident.
“I kept waiting to hear ‘We need a stretcher over here!’” Huerta said.
Cothern echoed the sentiment.
“I kept expecting someone to get hurt, but some of those guys out there still got their old moves,” he said.